Volunteers and staffers who recently took a tour of Carroll County's first community-based medical center called the facility a long-anticipated solution to helping more than 2,000 of the county's uninsured and underinsured residents.
The dust hasn't settled at Access Carroll, which won't see clients until the new year, but its organizers wanted to show off the 2,100-square-foot office above David's Jewelers, off East Main Street in Westminster, to people who have helped bring the project to life.
The walls were painted, cabinets installed and some areas carpeted and tiled, but the facility is weeks away from being operational. Although it is still being renovated, that did not deter the enthusiasm of the participants who strolled through the center Thursday afternoon.
"I'm quite excited about the resources here," said the Rev. Gerald Fuss of Westminster's Emmanuel United Church of Christ. "It's a facility with such a good location and accessibility. We're just really pleased and hopeful."
As a member of the Partnership for A Healthier Carroll County, Fuss helped form the Access Carroll committee that started the ball rolling in acquiring a stand-alone medical facility to provide non-urgent care by appointment to those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Patients will pay on a sliding scale, depending on income. Those who fall below a certain level will not have to pay.
In the next few weeks, the facility will be completed as appliances, equipment and furniture fill the space. Access Carroll's director, Karen Feroli, said the center is still seeking volunteers to do clerical work like filing and data entry, move furnishings and decorate the office.
Tricia Wagman, a member of the Junior Woman's Club of Westminster, said her organization has adopted Access Carroll as one of its projects and will help furnish and decorate the children's waiting room. The club will also provide food at the three open houses Access Carroll plans to hold before it starts receiving patients next month.
"I think it's a really great space," Wagman said. "We like the idea it's going to serve the community. ... We think it'll make a big difference for this community."
Feroli said the community has donated office supplies, refrigerators and furniture, but the facility's Christmas list still includes clocks, vacuum cleaners and medical supplies.
The open house gave supporters an idea of what resources they could supply.
"Once you can see it, they can really believe in it," Feroli said. "When you come here, you get enthusiastic."
Carroll County business owners have responded by donating services: electric, painting and carpeting among them.
"Everybody knows somebody who is going to use this service," Feroli said.
Westminster architect Dean Camlin volunteered to review the work of draftsman Frank Baylor, who also donated his services in drawing plans for Access Carroll.
A member of the Bonds Meadow Rotary Club, Camlin said he followed the group's motto: "Service above self."
"It's a matter of community obligation and wanting to put something back into the community," he said.
He got his first look at the partially completed center Thursday. "It looked pretty good to me. It looks like it'll answer their needs."
The new nonprofit group signed a lease in July for the Locust Lane office.
Carroll has a small mobile clinic operated by the Mission of Mercy, but it has limited space and resources. The traveling clinic often treats as many as 100 people a day.
The county Health Department also operates a two-room clinic.
"We unfortunately turned people away. We can't get them in fast enough," said Tami Becker, a nurse practitioner at the county's clinic, who will work full-time at Access Carroll.
"I have to refer them to emergency rooms and Mission of Mercy, and these are the working uninsured," Becker said.
She said these patients usually delay treatment because of the expense of medication and tests, but then they could end up in emergency rooms, where, she said, the expense is indirectly borne by everyone.
Becker will be joined by a nurse and volunteer physicians at Access Carroll, which has four exam rooms, a lab room, a physician's office, a staff lounge, a storage room and an administrative office.